Nofollow Tag Explained

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Word cloud for NofollowNofollow Tag

Search engines have a battery of tools that allow them to rank pages based on relevancy, popularity, and a host of other factors. One of the things they look at is the number of sites that contain outgoing links to a site. Each of these links, unless otherwise designated, functions as a sort of “vote” in favor of the content they are linking to. Sometimes, this is something that webmasters need to keep a tight rein on.Anofollow tag is a simple tool webmasters can use to helpmaintain a finer sense of control over which outgoing links on their sites they allow search engines to crawl. This keeps these links from inadvertently counting as votes in favor of their content. While it was originally used in a page’s meta tag, it can now be applied to original links.Using the nofollow tag is fairly easy. On links thatshouldn’t be crawled, itcan be added as a “rel” attribute:<a href="http://www.somepage.com" rel="nofollow">

All this does is act as a signal that search engines should not crawl this particular link to http://www.somepage.com. Unlike using nofollow in the meta tag, applying it to individual links allows site owners to single out which links should be ignored and which should not. This attribute won’t have any effect on the link’s appearance or behavior to regular site visitors– for all intents and purposes, it’ll appear as any other link on the site.

There are a number of situations where this is appropriate (and even beneficial) for a site owner or admin. It’s possible for sites to be penalized by search engines for following bad SEO practices– selling their influence in the form of putting up paid links, for example. Nofollow keeps search engines like Google from reading these paid links as votes. Site owners can buy links for a boost in traffic, and the nofollow attribute keeps them in Google’s good graces.

Applying to nofollow attribute to a link helps in several other situations, too. It keeps link drops in unmoderated comments from counting as votes, which helps cut down on comment spam as spammers realize their rankings aren’t increasing. It keeps sites from appearing to endorse third-party links attached to widgets and embedded content. It’s also helpful for any occasion when someone wants to link to another site without improving the site’s search engine rankings– for example, places that offer criticisms or satires of other sites that don’t want to appear to be endorsing their subjects.

Nofollow may be detrimental when it is automatically applied to links that a site wants to endorse. Some content creation and management platforms automatically attach the nofollow attribute to outgoing links, and, in some cases, this may require removing the attribute manually. While even a site owner who is unfamiliar with HTML can remove the nofollow tag from a basic link, this can pose a challenge when it comes to stripping it out of a widget. Fortunately, instances like that aren’t usually very common.

The internet functions as a vast, interconnected community. With nearly six hundred new websites created every minute, search engines need ways to ensure that searches return meaningful content that’s ranked sensibly in terms of relevance and popularity. Using the nofollow tag helps site owners ensure that their sites are only vouching for the content that they actually endorse, not any old link that gets dropped on their pages.

 

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